The men’s Santos Tour Down Under returns as a major international race next week, kicking-off the 2023 WorldTour with some of the biggest names in the peloton starting their season with some intense in the warmth of Adelaide and South Australia.
The women’s Tour Down Under is also back on after a two-year COVID-19 hiatus, and is part of the WorldTour for the first time, further elevating the quality of the combined week of racing. Cyclingnews will also have a full preview of the women’s Tour Down Under in the coming days.
The week of racing begins with a lung-opening evening criterium on Saturday January 14 for the women and men, which may not be part of the GC competition for the Tour Down Under but are always a show and always end with a fiercely contested sprint.
The men’s Tour Down Under then officially starts with a 5.5km prologue time trial around the parks to the north of Adelaide on Tuesday January 17 and ends with a hilltop finish, not on Willunga Hill where Richie Porte so often triumphed but on Mount Lofty overlooking Adelaide, on Sunday January 23.
The changes to the men’s race should create a more open and thrilling tour, with the prologue time trial making local resident Rohan Dennis (Jumbo-Visma) an overall favourite without ruling out other riders during the race before the final showdown on Mount Lofty. Michael Matthews (Jayco-AlUla), Giro d’Italia winner Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Caleb Ewan, who leads the Australian national team, will also fly the flag for the nation, while Chris Froome (Israel-Premier Tech), Simon Yates (Jayco-AlUla), Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost), Geraint Thomas and Ineos Grenadiers teammate Ethan Hayter have all opted to travel down under to start their season early as part of the 20-team peloton.
The Tour Down Under was last held as an international race in 2020, when Richie Porte won for a second time. Race director Stuart O’Grady and his organising staff bravely kept the event alive as a national-level competition during the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has not disappeared but Australia has opened its doors and will again welcome an international WorldTour peloton for the first major race of 2023.
European-based riders and teams began to arrive last week so they could recover from the 24 hours of flying and the significant time and meteorological differences. Arriving early allows them to acclimatise and complete a final block of training before the racing starts.